Balloon mollies are fun, and I'm still growing out some of the babies from last year, but I just couldn't stay away from goldfish altogether. Last June (or was it July?) , they got another batch of baby tikus at the good LFS. Against my better instincts, I set up a tank for them and went for it, bringing home four, thinking that a couple would surely perish, and I'd manage to keep one or maybe two if I was very very lucky.
I'm as shocked as anyone that, 8 months later, all four of the little boogers are alive and well and haven't had a single illness or mishap. No ich. No floatiness. And most importantly, no inexplicable deaths.
I absolutely adore them and just couldn't be happier.
Once the balloon mollies are grown, I'm going to have a spare tank. Keeping my eyes open for baby bubble eyes now.
I promise I'll take pics of the fry soon. Their transformation in the last week has been astounding! About half of the previously all-white fry have developed black spots, so hooray -- Dalmatians! And I'm starting to see the belly curve developing on many of them, so it appears the majority of them will indeed be balloons.
Still feeding the NLS fry food and baby brine shrimp exclusively, though I think they're almost big enough to start picking at some regular thawed brine shrimp soon. They eat like nobody's business!
There are several runts, but they're holding their own and continuing to grow, just more slowly than the rest. My favorite LFS has agreed to take whichever ones i don't keep once they're a few months old and colored up nicely, so it's a relief to know they'll have somewhere to go. I'd love to keep them all, but I'd need the world's biggest tank to do it (and for them to cease all breeding activity, which ain't gonna happen, ha!).
Got a 15 gallon bowfront set up for the Noodles (our balloon molly fry) last night and moved them over this morning from the two smaller grow-out tanks they'd been in since birth. They look practically microscopic in their luxurious new digs, but it won't be long before I'll be needing yet another tank for them if they keep growing at such an astonishing rate.
I'm so glad I remembered to get a sponge cover for the filter intake. They'd been in unfiltered tanks previously, with large daily water changes, so it's time for them to learn to swim with some current in the water. But I don't want any of them getting accidentally sucked in, yikes!
The fry were three weeks old a few days ago. They eat like little piglets (baby brine shrimp daily, and NLS fry powder) and are pooping machines. Have only lost one, a tiny runt, about a week ago, leaving us with 21 babies. Watching them grow and change is downright addictive!
A light outbreak of ich in the main balloon molly tank, and it's all my fault. I didn't quarantine our newest acquisition long enough. I think I've gotten so used to the mollies being generally healthier and less troublesome than goldfish, so I felt fairly confident about doing an abbreviated QT based on, honestly, nothing at all.
Now we have ich.
It's not bad, just a few specks on everyone's tail fins. I'm glad because I caught it in the very earliest stages. Have added salt to .2% and upped the heat to 83 (they were at 80-ish previously). Last round of salt going in tomorrow, and then we'll hold tight and hope this blows over quickly. Fingers and fins crossed!
Meanwhile, in the fry tanks, The Noodles continue to thrive. We haven't lost one yet, which is awesome and baffling at the same time. Still standing strong at 22. They're growing like little weeds and now know that my hands mean food. No more skittery behavior when I need to do something in one of the tanks.
Random pic, just 'cause I love my molly girls. This is Creamy, who's a lovely pale shade of yellow on top and bright white beneath, with see-through pectoral fins. Two of the 22 fry I currently have are from Creamy.
Divided the Noodles (our 22 balloon molly fry) into two tanks tonight, 11 in each, to give them maximum room to grow. They've already doubled, possibly tripled, in size in just over a week. They eat voraciously, and get both crushed/powdered tropical flakes and thawed baby brine shrimp each day.
I'm going to have to keep an eye on Craigslist for a decent sized tank or tanks for them. Two 20 gallons would be about right, but I don't know where I'd put them. I'll figure it out though; maybe I can find one with a stand.
I'm not entirely sure I want to turn my bedroom into a balloon molly breeding factory, so I'm not certain I'll do the fry thing again on a large scale like this. But this first time is really fun, and there's no telling what the future will bring.
It's now five days since our gazillion (well, actually 20, but they look like 10 times that) balloon molly fry were born, and we still haven't lost a single one. Knock wood, etc.
As soon as Gem, the mommy molly to all these fry, is finished with her QT and moved to the main aquarium, I'm going to transfer half the fry to that tank, and will have two fry tanks going simultaneously. I want them to have maximum room to grow -- not that they're having any trouble in that regard. I swear they've already doubled in size in just 5 days.
I'm feeding them powdered flake food several times a day, and they also get defrosted baby brine shrimp once daily. I didn't realize how absolutely microscopic those baby brine shrimp are! It's just a pretty orange cloud in the water, and you can hardly make them out. But the fry go nuts when I feed them shrimp, and end up with beautifully round tummies about 15 minutes later.
The babies are extremely varied in their coloration, and I'm super-curious to find out how that changes as they grow. But whatever color they are, they all kind of look like sardines right now. Here's a side view of one of them:
Could those eyes BE any bigger?
The niecelets and I hit a new-to-me LFS this weekend that I hadn't realized was only 15 minutes from my house. It was huge, with lots of really beautiful fish. We were hoping to find a new balloon molly (of course), after the unexpected loss of one last week. No luck, but we stopped at one of our regular LFSs afterward, and lo and behold, they had an absolute stunner, an almost all-black beauty with white speckles and highlights that the 6-year-old niecelet promptly named Gem.
Gem. Isn't she a beauty?
Got the QT tank set up for Gem at home, added water, heater and ridiculous decor the girls insisted on (I'm a sucker, what can I say?), and gently placed Gem in her temporary new home. Seconds later, the 9-year-old niece screams, "A baby just came out!"
Yep. Gem had dropped an adorable little fry. Because we'd seen how eagerly the other mollies consume their offspring, there was much chaos as we netted the new baby and transferred it to the fry tank with the existing 3 babies.
But baby oh baby, Gem was not done! We had a tense 5 minutes or so when a half-in, half-out fry, being born tail first, appeared to be stuck. He was HUGE when Gem finally got him out. After that, babies were coming fast and furious. We would give Gem a break for 10 minutes or so, and leave her alone in the dimly lit room, only to come back to 5 ... 6 ... even 7 more fry at a time.
One of our many fry.
She had TWENTY BABIES altogether!
The fry tank is positively swarming now, and they've been nicknamed The Noodles. Our very first fry, Cutiepie (born about 8 weeks ago, gender still unknown), was promoted to the big tank, lest he consume his new pseudo-siblings, and has settled in happily. The remaining 22 are all, miraculously, alive and well.
There's a real variety of color in this batch. Several dark ones, some white ones, some striped ones, and the one and only all-black fry, the little whale who got stuck during birth (he's now known as "Shaft"). They gobble powdered flake food, and tonight had their very first meal of defrosted frozen baby brine shrimp. Many adorably round tummies!
Another one. They're all the colors of the rainbow.
I had expected a little die-off at the start, but 48 hours in, all appear healthy. I already have a routine going, using a turkey baster to siphon uneaten food from the bottom of the tank, then draining and replacing a little over 75% of the water daily.
Once Gem has completed her QT, I plan to use her vacated tank for half the fry, to give them all maximum room to grow and to maintain good water quality.
Poor little thing was exhausted after delivering all those babies, and refused food for 24 hours. Now she's eating like crazy and zooming all over the QT tank, being a typical little balloon molly. If she doesn't break with ich or anything else funky in the next week or so, she's going to join her new girlfriends in the big tank.
I asked for it, and I got it! We have oodles of Noodles and couldn't be happier!
So out of nowhere, my favorite balloon molly girl died on Saturday. She started swimming erratically, and an hour later she was dead.
It's four days later, and all the others are doing well. Water parameters were perfect at the time of her death, and I hadn't introduce new foods or anything unusual. This molly was one of my very favorites, a white-with-black-speckles dalmatian that my nieces had named "Dot."
She was hugely pregnant a week or two before she died, but never gave birth that I was aware of (I found no fry, and never observed her doing the about-to-have-babies routine the others have done). So it's possible that she retained the babies and was attempting to reabsorb them, which can be deadly -- and unfortunately, there's no cure.
I'm keeping a close eye on everyone else, of course, but haven't seen anything troubling. The three fry continue to grow and thrive, and the smallest of the three, the one born a couple months ago, is almost large enough to introduce to the main tank with the adults. If I get any new fry soon (a couple of the gals are super-preggers), it will be officially time for him/her to make the move.
Really enjoying these balloon mollies, in spite of the recent loss of Dot. They're super-engaging little fish, swarming the front of the tank in a little knot every time I look at them. They learned to hand-feed easily (even the tiny little 5-millimeter fry are hand feeding!) and are very very active and tons of fun. This little tropical detour I'm on has proved to be a fun one indeed!
Not one of my girls, but they look just like this.
So a few days ago, I noticed one of the balloon molly gals was a bit withdrawn, hanging out in the "birthing tunnel" ornament I put in the tank (it's like a bridge covered with artificial grass, so the birthing mama can hide a bit while she's in labor and the fry can swim up through little holes in the ceiling and hide in the grass). It was Creamy (remember, all fish named by young nieces!), the light yellow female, who had been looking ridiculously pregnant for days.
I've read that livebearers tend to have their babies in the wee hours of the morning, and as it happened, I was up extraordinarily late and checked the tank before going to bed. I could barely even register what I was seeing when a teeny-tiny pair of eyes with a tail fin emerged from the fake grass and started swimming upward.
The whole sequence took less than one second:
Omigod, it's a --
Yeah, one of the other molly gals practically inhaled the baby before my eyes. And then she did it again with another one. I didn't see any others, and Creamy was swimming around like usual and no longer looked ... birthwardly inclined.
I went to sleep pretty annoyed with Shiny, the perpetrator. Shiny's the white molly who weeks earlier had given birth to the lone fry in my fry tank. It's hard to be mad at a fish (I mean, she was just doing what nature dictates, you know? If it swims, and it fits in her mouth, it's food). But I was still pretty p.o.'d. I've got fry food, I've got a lovely heated fry tank, I am so freakin' ready to raise up some baby balloon mollies.
The next day, my eagle-eyed six-year-old niece spotted a rogue baby hanging out near the surface, and we safely dispatched it to the fry tank. The fry born a month earlier, Cutiepie (remember, she names the fish), looked enormous next to the newbie, but not big enough to gobble it up.
This morning, Creamy was doing the hiding-in-the-tunnel routine again, and I found one more baby. So now I have three fry, which sounds kind of pathetic given that mollies are unbelievably prolific, but I'm over the moon.
Hoping to find more babies tonight, if I'm lucky.
So in my last entry, I wrote about the completely unresearched, unscientific way that I found myself walking out of the LFS with a bag of five female balloon mollies. Totally out of character for me to get a fish without learning as much as I can ahead of time. But I really wasn't thinking straight after senselessly losing multiple groups of baby pearlscales in an effort to establish my first-ever all-tiku tank, so I rolled with my impulses and found myself standing in front of my empty-but-thoroughly-sterilized aquarium, floating my bag o' mollies and wondering what to do next.
At some point in all the general fishkeeping reading I've done over the years, I had learned to differentiate between male and female mollies (which is super easy to do, as they have some very distinctly different physical characteristics). I also knew that males can be territorial and persnickety with one another. So I'd selected only female mollies, figuring maybe one or two would already be pregnant, but assuming that that would end quickly with a few fry, and we'd put the baby-birthing behind us.
Within days, two of the already-round balloon girls became even rounder, and kept ... well, ballooning, until I thought that one of them, the all-white fish (named "Shiny" by my young niece) would quite literally burst. I was feeding the whole gaggle of them one morning when, to my surprise, a tiny little speck with huge eyes darted out from the mouth of the tiki statue and gobbled at a passing flake of food. Fast little bugger. He was dispatched via turkey baster to a small "fry tank" I quickly set up. A second baby, who had buried itself in the gravel to avoid being eaten by the always-hungry mature fish, only lasted a few days after transfer.
Okay, one pregnancy done, maybe one more to go, right? Imagine my shock when I learned that from a single breeding, female mollies can store sperm for as long as SIX MONTHS, and can basically get pregnant whenever they feel like it (and do so, on average, once a month).
So with five females, all showing varying degrees of roundness, I could conceivably be looking at 25 or more births. All without any additional fish-sex taking place, mind you. There are miracles of (literally) biblical proportions occurring in my aquarium. When the Three Wise Fish come riding up on seahorses, I won't be a bit surprised.
But since that first birth, zilch. Three out of the five molly girls look ridiculously pregnant, but they either won't drop their fry, or are somehow releasing them in the dead of night, eating the evidence, and strangely remaining bloated.
I've been trying everything. Increased the temp a couple of degrees, which is supposed to encourage labor. Been feeding these mostly plant-based eaters a higher protein diet, with thawed frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp, which is supposed to be good for the babies' development and (surprise) encourage labor. Added a large "fry tunnel" ornament that's covered with bushy artificial grass, which would give any babies a place to hide, the moms a place to give birth, and should relax them enough to (you guessed it) encourage labor.
Nope. One very fat fry in the grow-out tank, with no buddies to speak of. He/she is growing so rapidly that I don't think I could add newborn fry to that tank anyway, as he might actually be large enough to EAT them at this point.
I should print and paste this to the aquarium's side, to inspire them to get busy already!
Baby fish look mostly the same, but they're all pretty cute.
This waiting game is getting old really fast. Gimme babies!
So I completely lost it when the baby tikus mentioned in my last blog entry arrived with 2 of them DOA and the rest looking sketchy. Total loss within 48 hours. It was awful. The seller very kindly sent replacements at no charge, all of which were DOA. It was ridiculous. They couldn't even make it into my tank before going belly-up.
My theory is that both the online seller and the LFS were getting their baby pearlscales from the same wholesaler. Both the online seller and the store are in California, so it's likely that the same importer was supplying their fish (and clearly this was a very bad batch of pearlscales!).
I was beyond depressed at that point, and it was made even worse once I scoured and disinfected every last inch of the aquarium and got everything reassembled and running again. I was being taunted by that shiny fresh tank, just sitting there bubbling away, fish-less. Every time I walked past, it was mocking me.
I kept cruising the four or so local fish stores near me that have a decent selection of goldfish, but nothing was screaming "Take me home!" I had had my heart set on pearlscales, and the others just left me feeling kind of meh. I even saw some really sweet young ranchus in some of my favorite color combos, but they just weren't doing it for me. And even though I'm really fairly certain that the Great Pearlscale Massacre of 2015 wasn't my fault in the slightest, losing so many fish in such a short period of time had really left me shaken, and I was questioning my abilities as a fishkeeper. When you're scooping two or three dead fish from your aquarium on a daily basis, you have to wonder what you're doing wrong. It's just natural.
So I was shuffling through my favorite LFS, scanning through the tanks of goldfish I'd looked at just a few days before, wondering halfheartedly if I should just get those red and white orandas already, or maybe that nice white butterfly telescope, and call it done, when I drifted further to the right -- and saw a tank filled with these unbelievably wiggly fish that made my heart leap.
You see, they kind of resembled my dear departed tiku pearlscales. Round, globe-like bodies and tiny little heads. But unlike the pearlies I'd been watching perish in rapid succession, these fish were astonishingly energetic. They were positively swarming through the tank and as I leaned in for a closer look, the whole mass of them just converged in front of my face, paddling frantically and vying for attention. What WERE these little fishy gremlins?
Two words: Balloon mollies.
Huh? Mollies? But those were TROPICAL fish. And aside from puffers, I'd never kept a tropical fish in my life. I'm a goldfish girl through and through, baby. Goldfish are challenging. They're unique. They're ever so much more complex than the aquarium world gives them credit for. And mollies are just ... mollies. I mean, doesn't everybody and his cousin have some black mollies in a tank with, like, minnows and some moss and tadpoles from the creek? I mean, mollies? Please.
But I just couldn't tear myself away from that tank. If I moved to the right or left, the whole gaggle of fish followed me. They were ridiculously lopsided and, well, balloon-y. And I realized I was smiling.
I mean, come on.
So I did something that I never ever do when it comes to keeping pets. I am the Queen of Research, the Goddess of Learning All You Can Before You Buy, Little Miss Scolds-You-If-You-Don't-Know-What-You're-Getting-Into. And yet I grabbed the nearest LFS employee, pointed out my favorite five balloon mollies, and I was out the door and in my car before I even knew what happened.
Coming soon: Salve for my battered fishkeeper's soul, how balloon mollies are a lot like goldfish, and omigod-what's-that-speck-oh-CRAP-is-that-a-baby?
Found an online seller of baby ping pong pearlies and ordered some to ship this week. I'm not particular about color with this variety of goldie, as long as they're nice and round, which I've been assured they are. They typically only come in orange, orange/white and calico anyway, and like I said, I'm not fussy. Just want them roly-poly and ... healthy. For freak's sake, let them be healthy.
So I have their tank disinfected from the others and ready to go. Picking up another wad of cycled media from my friend today (she's hosting the Superbowl party I'm going to), and will feed the BBs with fish food the next few days until the fish arrive.
Please be gentle, mail carrier. Precious cargo. I'm giving the tiku thing another chance, so help me.
So all 4 of the new tikus perished within the first 48 hours. Am I surprised? Not really, because that's pretty much par for the course for me with this variety of goldfish. And I wasn't the least bit surprised when I returned to the LFS to find that the rest of their batch of tikus (about 10 or so) had died on them, too.
Right now I have the tank running with an extra-heavy level of salt, to kill off the ich that these little boogers brought in (which naturally bloomed on them and became visible AFTER I had bought them).
I'm still debating what to do, fish-wise. Maybe it's time for a goldfish break. I could get a little posse of dwarf puffers, which is always fun (they're really interesting and interactive fish!). The only drawback to DPs is their size; they are seriously tiny and you have to stand right in front of the tank to appreciate them. I have my aquarium light on a timer that turns the light out about half an hour after I go to bed; it's awesome to lie there and watch the fish before I fall asleep. Can't really do that with the puffs, because they're too small.
Another option would be a pair of red eye puffers; they're easily sourced online right now. But with those, you have to worry about feeding them crunchy foods to keep their teeth filed down, which means snails, and I'm not in the mood for breeding snails at the moment. Too much work. So those are out.
SIGH. I guess I'll just wait until something aquatic smacks me upside the head and says "ME! I'M THE ONE!" Most likely a goldfish, preferably some pearlscales, but we'll see...
A passel of baby bubble eyes would be awfully fun too.
Seems like life gets in the way of my Koko's enjoyment at times -- it has really been a while since I've browsed around here! It's always weird when I come back from a Koko's break to see how many new folks have joined and become very active voices on the forum. Don't get me wrong, it's a great thing, but I'm like, Who ARE you people? Well, welcome one and all!
Sadly, I lost Astro, my beautiful calico butterfly, just last week. I got to enjoy him for two years, but it's never enough, is it? Hula, my bubble eye, fell victim to the overfeeding of a pet sitter while I was on vacation last spring. I had portioned the food for the goldies into individual baggies, and instructed her to only feed ONE bag per day, but I came home to this: "They were so hungry that I fed them four bags, one after the other, and they ate it ALL." So I'm pretty sure the resulting ammonia spike was what did in my delicate little bubble boy. Needless to say, I have a new pet sitter.
So, finding myself fishless, I stopped by my favorite LFS this morning on a whim, just to see what they had. Lo and behold -- a tank full of tikus! (For those who aren't into pearlscales, tikus are the super-round ones without headgrowth that are also known as "ping pong" or "golf ball" pearlies.) Tikus are an old favorite of mine, although I have never EVER had luck at keeping one alive for more than a year (and for many, it was a matter of mere weeks or, if I was on a hot streak, months). Ping pong pearlies are notorious for being delicate and difficult to keep alive (although I realize the same can be said about most fancy goldfish, but just trust me, these guys are challenging for even an experienced keeper).
After ogling the pearlies for at least 15 minutes, grinning from ear to ear, I selected my favorite four, had them transferred to a tank holding baby black ranchus, paid, and watched them hang the "THESE PING PONGS SOLD!" receipt on the glass. I'll be picking them up tomorrow -- have to get my tank up and running and stop by my friend's house to mooch some of her great BB-laden filter media so I can have an insta-cycled aquarium ready to go.
Let's just hope past history doesn't repeat itself. It's been years since I've had tikus. Wish me luck, will you?
Since my last blog post was kind of heavy, I thought I'd lighten things up a bit and just do some general goldfish chit-chat. I really did enjoy all the very thoughtful replies that last entry received, though.
I'm still very much enjoying my totally derpy bubble eye, Hula. Seriously, I had no idea how much I'd enjoy having a bubble eye once I got over the almost paralyzing fear that he'd somehow rupture a sac within 10 minutes of arrival. Every time I'd peek at the tank, I was stressed out, literally thinking "Don't pop! Don't pop! Don't pop!" as I searched for him.
Hula's never hard to find, though, as he's an incredibly social fish and always right near the front, doing that adorable goldie dance that we interpret as "Oh, he's happy to see me!" and which no doubt literally translates as "Feed me, now!" Of course, the dance is made even more endearing by those giant floating balloons around his face.
Who knew that I'd find something so potentially grotesque instead completely and utterly charming? I've decided that I'll never be without a bubble eye again. I'd love to have a dedicated bubble eye aquarium someday. The idea of 3 or 4 or 5 of them all wobbling around together in a big tank just makes me go "Squeeeee!"
But I haven't forgotten about my passion for ranchus, either. Still love them, and still miss mine terribly. Someday, when I'm in a bigger place and my health is better, I'll keep ranchus again. I just visited my old fish last weekend, and when I see how large they've become (Triton is easily 7+ inches long just in body length, and his girth is astonishing), I know that I never could have downgraded them to a smaller tank to accommodate my physical limitations. Bubble eyes just have a smaller footprint (fin print?) in a tank, and don't seem to require as much room as those mini-whales I used to keep.
Speaking of ranchus, there's nothing terribly remarkable about this one in terms of color, but something about it just captivates me anyway. It won't be hard to find fish I like when the time comes someday, that's for sure.
In my last blog post, I mentioned that I'd touch on a topic that's troubling to me as a goldfish keeper: The fact that sometimes, despite your very best efforts as an aquarist, following a care regime that's tried and true and proven by hundreds of other folks, goldfish sometimes just up and die on you anyway. It's really the ugly side of this hobby, and one that most of us don't really like to delve into too much. But I wanted to address what I think is one major element that can lead to the untimely demise of our finned friends.
Goldfish, as a severely mutated species manipulated by man to have extreme physical characteristics, have the genetic deck stacked against them from the get-go. Breeding for telescopic eyes, fluid-filled sacs, extreme wens, arched backs, tucked tails, short deep bodies, large humps, pearled scales, or any of the seemingly limitless attributes that people have come to treasure in fancy goldfish, results in fish that are seriously less than hardy. Few, if any, breeders (particularly ones breeding on a commercial scale) give much, if any, consideration to health and longevity when producing their stock. Let's face it: Pretty goldfish sell. And we, the buying public, like to buy ryukins with humps, bubble eyes with sacs, orandas with wens, ranchus with tail tucks, and on and on.
(And before anyone thinks I'm speaking from some high-and-mighty place here, I'm the first to admit that I'm just as easily wowed and wooed by a pretty fishy as anyone else. In fact, right now I'm keeping my first ever bubble eye goldfish, a variety that is bred with absolutely no regard for the fact that the Jell-O balloons by its face make it slow, off-balance, and incredibly susceptible to infection in the almost inevitable situation when one of the sacs bursts.) Note: This post is also not a condemnation of the fact that goldfish are bred for extreme physical characteristics at the expense of their health. I'm really not interested in debating the ethics of it; it's something I accept as a goldfish fact, and I happen to really love those extreme features.
So I am not, repeat not, implying that breeding fancy varieties of goldfish is unethical. But what I am saying is that as goldfish keepers, we need to be aware that we start out with a serious disadvantage in our hobby of choice. Our fish just ain't healthy. Those extreme features can and do cause myriad complications, many unseen, that undermine the integrity of the fish's health overall.
Lovely to look at, but what does that mean in the long run?
In terms of care, those of us who take goldfish keeping seriously -- the few, the rare, the best of us -- always strive to do it better. We want to know what goldfish need to thrive, not just live. What makes them grow and flourish? What can we do to make our fish blossom? What makes for a HAPPY fish? And we plan our care accordingly, incorporating elements like quarantine, preventive treatment for various diseases, regular and large water changes, offering a variety of high-quality foods, etc. In short, we give our goldfish every possible reason to live long, healthy lives.
And sometimes, they die anyway. More often than not, we don't know why. I don't know even a single serious goldie keeper, on Koko's or elsewhere, who hasn't lost what would be considered an appalling number of animal lives if their hobby of choice revolved around, say, kittens. A short browse through the forum archives reveals that goldfish, even in incredibly experienced and dedicated hands, die routinely. Some folks don't broadcast when it happens, but it becomes apparent over time that their posts and pics no longer feature favorite fish of yesteryear (or yestermonth, alas).
Are all goldfish doomed to die, regardless of our efforts? Of course not. And there are plenty of examples of long-lived fancies both on this forum and around the world. But I just wanted to present my particular take on the longevity of goldfish, wherein I view goldfish keeping as more of an exercise in keeping fish alive in spite of the genetic factors stacked against them, rather than a hobby in which everyone starts on a level playing field, with a healthy, problem-free goldfish, and must simply proceed from that point and keep that fish alive. Following a simple formula of "Do A, and B, and the end product is guaranteed to be a healthy fish" doesn't apply here. Goldfish are a challenging variety for ALL aquarists.
And you know what? Instead of finding all this depressing, it actually cheers me somewhat. We're all in this together, and while there will be failures, they happen to all of us. And they can make the times we win even sweeter.
I've been getting nostalgic lately about some of the goldfish I've had over the years. I've been a goldfish keeper on and off (mostly on) since 1989, if you can believe it. Back in the olden days, it was mostly hit or miss in terms of success, with plenty of bad advice given by LFS employees (even worse than today!) and a lot of lessons learned the hard way. We had no Internet for guidance, no digital cameras (so we took few, if any, pics of our fish), and we were limited to the stock on hand at the one (two, if you were lucky) fish stores in the area. This was even pre-Petco and PetSmart, people.
I still remember my first goldfish tank fondly. It was a 10 gallon with electric blue gravel, an undergravel filter, plastic plants, a bubbling scuba diver ornament (yes, my tacky taste goes waaayyyyyy back), and FOUR fish. I still remember them fondly: a moor, a red oranda, a shubunkin (!), and a common pleco ("to clean the algae"). Needless to say, they were not long-lived in that setup, although I had the shubunkin and pleco for several years. Once the moor and the oranda bit the dust, I replaced them with a never-ending variety of others, from ryukins to comets to lionheads and beyond.
Nowadays I know ever so much more about what it takes to keep goldfish alive and happy, including 10x filtration, lots of room, a premium and varied diet, massive water changes, and so on. I discovered many of the "rules" along the way, and was already allowing 10-20 gallons per goldfish by about 1995, but dang, a lot of fish sacrificed their lives to my learning curve. If I could time travel back to my goldfish beginnings and save a couple dozen fishy lives, I would. But they didn't die in vain; all those early mistakes helped me to keep happy healthy goldies today.
BUT... In a future blog post: the unfairness of having goldfish die DESPITE doing everything the "right" way, which is a very real and very frustrating part of this hobby.
And, just for funsies, a recent photo of Astro, my calico butterfly. This guy makes me awfully happy. He has the really extreme telescope eyes that I just adore:
Ugh, I hate when life gets in the way of good goldfish enjoyment. The last year hasn't been a great one for my family and me health-wise, although things are looking up. I just had the one-year anniversary of my brain surgery a few weeks ago, and we seem to have gotten my mom's issues under control as well. Here's to smoother sailing in the next 12 months!
So although I was once again forced to take a Koko's sabbatical, I think it's safe to say that I'm back again, hopefully for keeps this time, although perhaps not quite as frequently as I'd like.
And what's the latest with my finned friends, you might be asking? Not much, and that's a great thing. Astro the butterfly and Hula the bubble eye are alive and swimmin' and growing like weeds. The two of them are still the goldfish version of The Odd Couple, and they give me an awful lot of pleasure. Couldn't ask for nicer fish, or cuter ones, for that matter. I just posted a thread this afternoon with updated photos of both of them.
My former ranchus are still going strong in the care of my best friend. It's been a year, and I can't believe how well she's taken to the world of goldie keeping. She was terrific enough to take the fish while I was in the hospital, and now she's downright crazy about them. I need to snap photos next time I visit. The biggest ranchu, King Triton, is ridiculously huge. And even dear old Chowder, the calico ranchu, is thriving, and going on 4 years I think. I wish so much that I could maintain a big tank again, but that's just not in the cards right now, and I'm so grateful that my little lovelies have landed in such good hands.
I always scope out the available goldfish on the various sites, just for fun, and came across this positively stunning jade seal oranda tonight:
I'm not normally a huge oranda fan, but I sure wouldn't boot this beauty out of my tank!
Did another water change last night with my new Python. I hope whoever invented Pythons made a bazillion dollars and retired happy, because it's just about the greatest invention I've ever encountered in the aquatic world. I think back to the "olden days" of fishkeeping when I lugged buckets from bathtub to tank and back again, and started siphons by sucking on the tubing (often getting a mouthful of dirty tank water in the process, yuck!) and I just shudder. Never again will I be without my trusty Python by my side.
Astro and Hula are done with their QT and are thriving. The two of them seem to like each other a lot -- they're rarely apart in the tank, but instead swim almost everywhere together. Astro (the calico butterfly) has a teeny bit of wen on his head, and it seems to be yellowing. I think it must be the New Life Spectrum that I'm feeding them. I don't mind it, since he's a calico, but if he was solid white I'd be ordering some Pro-Gold pretty darn quick. Pro-Gold has never discolored my fish, and I like white fish to be white-white-white. But anything looks good on a calico, you know?
Speaking of calicos, this ranchu just bowled me over when I saw it listed for auction last night. The black fins and the vivid red coloration are way beyond stunning. Whoever bought this fish is lucky indeed.
I need to take updated pics of my fish already -- they've grown! Hula's bubbles are mostly orange now, and they're noticeably bigger. And Astro is beefing up and getting a nice big tummy. It's amazing what plenty of food and good clean water can do, isn't it?
I'm so eager for my PetSolutions package to arrive on Wednesday. Not only will I have a nice new Python at last, but I also splurged and got a new Rena 400 air pump.
I've always been easily irritated by humming or mechanical noises from my tanks, which is why I prefer ultra-quiet canister filters. Aside from the fact that they provide truly superior biological and mechanical filtration , one of the main attractions is that a good canister is virtually silent.
I require silence from my air pumps, too. I'm a big proponent of supplemental aeration in goldfish tanks. No matter how much surface movement you might have from the filter outflow(s), running an airstone or bubble wand keeps that water moving, which ensures that the filter gets to ALL the water. And the bubbles breaking at the surface mean there's plenty of oxygen in the water too.
But ugh, air pumps are usually so freakin' noisy. Years ago, I discovered Rena pumps, and their golden silence, and have kept a 400 on every tank since. But I gave my Rena away with my ranchu tank, and when I got my current tank from Craigslist, and needed a new air pump, I thought I'd try to save a few bucks and get a less expensive one. FAIL.
I went through many air pumps before settling on Renas in the first place, but I thought maybe the other manufacturers had caught up and improved their technology in the intervening years. So I purchased a new Whisper, and frankly, the noise is driving me bonkers.
So it's back to the good old Rena 400 for me, and the improved night's sleep I'll get will be worth every penny, and then some.
In other goldfish news, I finally settled on names for my fish. Introducing Astro (calico butterfly) and Hula (red/white bubble eye).
I just adore these two clowns. They're on their final round of prazi and I can remove the salt at the next water change. I hope to have them for a good long time.
It's always the same old issue with us goldfish fanatics, isn't it? Too many wonderful, amazing goldfish out there, and not enough tank space.
I feel more restricted than ever with my 30 gallon tank right now, because 2 goldfish is the absolute max I can have and feel like I can give them a good life. I'm thinking really wistfully of the days when I had my big ranchu tank, and a second goldfish tank in the bedroom. I usually had 5 fish in residence at any given time, and while I still got that "new fish itch" from time to time, my goldie lust was more or less sated.
But times are different now, and with my new living situation, I'm pretty much limited to just the one tank for the forseeable future. It is what it is. Nothing I can do about it.
But when I come across stunners like this, it's hard to keep from swooning and wishing things were different, you know?
I mean, come ON.
I still haven't fully decided what to use as a staple diet for my two new fish. In years past, I've been a huge fan of Pro-Gold. It always gave my fish excellent growth and seemed to enhance their colors without muddying their white (which is why I took Saki-Hikari out of the rotation -- it gave my white goldfish an orange wash). In fact, I fed Pro-Gold back in the days when it was brand-new and was called Sho-Gold. Yep, been keepin' goldfish a long time, longer than some Koko's members have been alive. Ouch.
This time around, I wasn't able to order any Pro-Gold before getting my new fish, so I grabbed a container of New Life Spectrum at the LFS where I bought them. I have to say that I'm pretty happy with it so far.
My calico butterfly was showing a predisposition toward floatiness/slight SBD when he first arrived. That appears to be resolved now (yay!). All they've had is the NLS, one serving of peas, and some bloodworms left over from feeding my dwarf puffer. So I probably have to give the New Life Spectrum (and lots of good clean water) credit for the improvement in the butterfly's balance.
So I think I'm going to stick with the NLS as their staple food right now. It's working wonderfully, and I don't want to rock the boat. They're almost done with their second round of prazi, and I think it's safe to say that I have a couple of keepers here.
Floaty? Me? Not anymore!
I bought a generic Python-type water changer, and boy am I disappointed. The quality just plain sucks, I can't get a decent seal when attaching it to the faucet because of the thin plastic threading, and it removed and replaced water at a snail's pace. Seriously, I could have refilled the tank faster by standing over it and spitting for a couple hours. I finally got impatient during the refill and hauled out the bucket.
So back to the store it goes, and if they give me any grief because it's removed from the package and used once, I will go OFF. It's a shoddy, inferior product that cost way too much, and I want my money back. And I will get it.
Name brand Pythons only from here on out. Lesson learned.
In happier news, my two new fish are on their second round of prazi and all seems well with them. It's such a delight to have goldfish again. Both are super-friendly, swim actively, and eat with gusto. It's a little weird not to have ranchus after only having that type for so long, but I'm really enjoying them.
I wish I could relax a little about the bubble eye's sacs though. I keep expecting to find one or both of them deflated at any moment. I need to try to get over that. But I did a search on the forum for topics containing "bubble eye," and it seems like every post titled "New Bubble Eye!" was followed a short time later by one headed "Bubble Eye Bubbles Popped!" Yikes. Knock wood, we're good so far.
I just love this little goober.
So far, quarantine is going just fine with the two new fish. They're at .3% salt as of yesterday, and almost finished with their first round of prazi. I don't see anything terribly concerning in either of them; normal poop for both, no tattered fins, no sign of ich. First QT I've done in a while, and it's a relief to have it going so smoothly.
The only worry, really, is that the calico butterfly isn't quite as stable in the water as I'd like him to be. He very mildly headstands once in a while, and seems to be a touch floaty, especially after eating. It's bumming me out that he's already like this. I had chosen him at the LFS, and then went to pick him up the next day. When I picked him, he looked perfectly fine. When I went to get him, he was a little wobbly and ever so slightly floaty. I went against my better instincts and bought him anyway, because I'd fallen for the little bugger and none of the other fish "spoke" to me the way he did.
I've certainly dealt with my share of floaty fish in my years keeping goldfish (who among us hasn't?), but I try as much as possible to start with fish that at least appear to be free of problems when I acquire them. The floatiness usually comes later. So far, though, it hasn't been a real problem (he still books around the tank like nobody's business), so mainly I'm going to keep an eye on him and experiment with foods (thawed frozen, pellets, gel, etc.) and see what happens.
He's such a goofy-looking fish, with those enormous telescope eyes. He reminds me very much (except for color, of course) of Archie, a red and white butterfly I had for several years a while back. Archie was probably my all-time favorite of the goldies I've kept. He started as a little puny guy from the LFS (he was smaller when I got him than this calico is now), and grew into quite a beast. He had the BEST personality, super-sassy and very pushy with other fish, but also totally interested in me anytime I came near the tank. Archie's vision sucked, so I had to teach him to hand-feed. My nieces adored him, because they put their hands in the tank and Archie would nibble them all over, searching for food. Naturally, they thought he was giving them kisses.
This was Archie when I first got him, in the QT tank:
And this was him a few years later, king of his domain:
I still miss Archie. I think that's why this calico reeled me in. The color is completely different, but I swear he's channeling Archie somehow. Probably the eyes.
I have big plans for this little guy. I'm going to (hopefully) teach him to hand-feed as well, so I can control what he eats and help keep him balanced and stable. SBD just plain sucks, you know? I'm going to work hard not to let it become full-fledged.
Another angle, just because I like him so much. I plan to take pics with the good camera soon!
So I had completely decided on a new fish: a lovely calico butterfly telescope with fantastic oversized eyes. When I went to pick him up, though, I kept getting pulled as if by a magnet to the bubble eye tank, and came home with one of them too. Oops!
This is the first time I've ever had a bubble eye, and I've been keeping goldfish since the late 1980s. I think it's probably the only commonly-available variety I've never kept before. I've had ranchus, orandas, fantails, ryukins, teles, pearlscales, and even commons and comets. But never a bubble eye.
Why? Because I've always been convinced their sacs would deflate on me within 5 minutes of arriving home.
So now I'm running to the tank every few seconds, it seems, terrified that I'll find the new guy's bubbles in tatters. I thought fish keeping was supposed to be a relaxing hobby?
I do have gravel, which I've read isn't ideal for BEs. I'm minimizing the tank decor, though, and pulling out a couple beloved pieces in the interest of eye sac safety. I put a sponge on the filter intake too. So I've got my fingers crossed that this will work out OK.
He's so adorable I can hardly stand it:
Those ridiculous bubbles just slay me.